Interesting that my last post was so full of promise. That promise did stay with me for a good few months. Actually, scrap that, that promise and optimism stayed with me almost all the way through 2022. It’s just my legs didn’t read the same memo.
So what went wrong? I had goals, not unachievable goals but sensible, measurable, achievable goals. Sounds like a management training course. I’d even met the first one or two…Run a half maintaining sub 5:00/km pace. Done. Here’s the proof:
Everything was on track. I was training reasonably well to continue that into a full marathon, again maintaining sub 5:00/km pace.
You know there’s a but coming.
Here Comes The But…
It feels like such a cliché, especially since 2021. I got COVID.
It didn’t take me out too much; blimey, not compared to a lot of people. Two or three days totally zapped but not much else, aside from a week or so of running out of steam earlier than I might normally have done. I left it a couple of weeks to get back to running then picked up where I left off.
Turns out my legs weren’t quite ready to pick back up where they’d left off and I promptly pulled my left calf. I know I know, pretty naive to expect to pick up where I’d left off in my training. Mistake number one.
I’d like to remind you at this stage of the well known phrase, ‘you can’t expect different results if you continue to repeat the same process’. That. That should actually be the title of this post
I’ve pulled my calf several times over the last few years, every time thanks to my over-exhuberance when getting back to training after a break. Previously, a couple of weeks off and a gradual reintroduction tends to do the job
Let’s try that tried and tested method then, I thought to myself….
…and I could repeat those last three or four paragraphs another twice to guide you through the remainder of the running year.
Each time I got back into running again, I would increase the pace and distance to perhaps 30-40km per week over a 4 or 5 week period and boom, my calf would go again.
As I alluded to, now I look back, I kept repeating the same recovery strategy each time and, lo and behold, each time I’d end up stressing my calf out again.
This was, and can only have been, my fault. Granted, one of the three times it went was actually Lanzarote’s fault for being so alluring with its running trails. Our hotel was on the beach but at the foot of a volcano with a beautifully enticing trail all the way up. So I couldn’t resist:
OK, that did NOT help my calf recovery but was one of the most scenic runs I’ve done in years.
All in all, my year can be summed up by the strava fitness progress chart. Not that I really pay much attention to these kind of things but, on this occasion, it highlights my plight perfectly:
Is it really that obvious where my calf kept going? Yes. Yes it is. If this were a stock market trace, you’d be shorting that every day of the week. You can see each time I begin to get somewhere, the calf goes and I’m forced to rest and recover again. To say I was beginning to lose all faith that I’d ever actually get back into the swing of things is an understatement.
It always seemed to coincide with my calf taking a turn for the worse that everyone around me was going from strength to strength with their running. This in itself only pleased me to see so many people enjoying so much running but it, in turn, helped to emphasise how much I couldn’t do at the time.
October – Facing the Reality
The end of October was a crucial turning point. As my calf went for the third time, that was my wake up call to do something about it properly. So I turned to the physio.
Turns out this is what I should have done months before. Stopped running entirely and went back to basics with rehab and strength exercises to bring my legs back into the game in a measured and, most importantly, PATIENT way.
Why I hadn’t done this earlier is something I have asked myself a lot recently. The trouble is, I’ve managed it fine in the past, I’m an eternal optimist, a chronic procrastinator and ultimately a bit stubborn. Turns out what I’m not is realistic, or patient.
Now I had the physio on board, I would not only be letting myself down (which I could probably cope with, let’s be honest) but I’d also be letting the physio down. I did not want to do that and ultimately, I wanted more than anything to get back to running. So I was a right teacher’s pet.
Massively appealing to my engineery, numbers inclination, I had a spreadsheet to work with and a plan of rehab and strength exercises. I loved it. And I loved the feeling of finally doing something properly about my calf. So I stuck to the plan by the letter. Like the geek that I am.
It turns out my recovery routine that I had been doing all year was along the right lines but it just wasn’t enough. It was likely I had a grade 2 calf strain, whereas in the past it was likely just grade 1. Essentially that therefore involved being more sensible for longer before getting back to anything resembling running.
Light at the End of the Tunnel
In case you didn’t notice, on that fitness graph earlier, you can see that the end of the trace into February and today, does not drop off again. I’ve even marked it with a star to show how pleased I am with myself:
And this is where I am today: having gone through strengthening exercises throughout November and December, I returned gradually to running in January. Slowly slowly slowly increasing the distance and longevity of the running sections, I’m finally getting the confidence back in my legs. So far so good.
After so long out of the game, I’ve never appreciated getting out running quite this much. I’ve not pushed it, I’ve not gone far and certainly haven’t gone fast but I’ve loved every minute of running I’ve done since Christmas.
I may not be where I was this time last year in terms of running fitness but fingers crossed I’m an older and wiser runner thanks to the last year. Well, older certainly.
To celebrate, and strictly with permission from the physio and fitness instructor at work, I’ve signed up to Endure24 in Reading in June. 24hrs, run as far or as little as you want, or can.
Let’s get this show on the road. Even if it’s a slow, gentle show to begin with. Can’t wait.
Well that’s quite the update post. I’ve wondered a few times what had happened to you. Sorry to hear about the constant calf issues, but glad to hear you’re on the mend, Tom. Cheers, mate… looking forward to future updates.
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Hi Matt, yes bit of an essay! Thanks for the message, I appreciate that! Fingers crossed I’ve learnt how to put calf troubles behind me and have a good 2023 of running 🤞